Elissa Nadworny

Enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities is on track to fall by another nearly 500,000 undergraduate students this fall, continuing the historic drops that began with the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data out Tuesday.

The decline of 3.2% in undergraduate enrollment this fall follows a similar drop of 3.4% the previous year, the first fall of the pandemic, according to the research from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The Biden administration's program to make community college tuition-free will not become a reality in this round of the president's spending priorities, leaving progressive groups disappointed.

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It's common knowledge at this point that the more education you have, the more money you'll make. Studies have shown that, on average, someone with a bachelor's degree will earn more than someone with an associate degree or a yearlong certificate.

But according to new research released on Thursday, there are also a lot of exceptions.

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It has been a week since the Food and Drug Administration announced full approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, and the decision has opened the door for colleges and universities to require the vaccine for their campuses.

With a new academic year underway, about 100 colleges across the country added a mandate after the FDA approval. At University of Richmond, students now have until Sept. 8 to get at least their first dose. At Central Michigan University, students can opt out of the vaccine requirement, but, if they do, must submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

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Rental trucks in the parking lots; joyful hugs as students find old friends; a crowd in the campus store as families stock up on Husker gear: It's move-in week at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The center of the action here is the Devaney Center. It's usually home to track and field, but this week it's where students and their families are shuffling in to get their room keys, maps of campus, move-in directions, a mandatory COVID-19 test — and this year — a booth where they can get a vaccine shot.

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Colleges are trying to convince their students to get the COVID vaccine with all kinds of incentives - free parking, free ziplining, even free tuition. NPR's Elissa Nadworny covers higher education and has been looking into this. Good morning, Elissa.

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Undergraduate college enrollment fell again this spring, down nearly 5% from a year ago. That means 727,000 fewer students, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Updated May 27, 2021 at 2:54 PM ET

When someone applies to college, there's often a box or a section on the application that asks about any relatives who attended the university — perhaps a parent or a cousin. This is called "legacy," and for decades it's given U.S. college applicants a leg up in admissions. But no longer in Colorado's public colleges.

Writing a graduation speech is a tricky task. Should you be funny, or sincere? Tell a story — or offer advice? For Yusef Pierce, a graduating senior in California, the job of putting together his public address was a bit more challenging.

"Being inside, I can't really refer to other graduation speeches," Pierce says. He's speaking by phone from inside the California Rehabilitation Center, a medium-security prison in Norco. "I was just trying to come up with what sounded like a graduation speech."

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Democrats in the House and Senate are introducing legislation Tuesday that would make pandemic-related food benefits for college students permanent. The push is being led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent.

In Jasmine Williams' family, graduating from the University of Michigan is a rite of passage. Her parents met on the campus, and her older sister graduated from the school a few years ago. She remembers sitting bundled up in the family section for that graduation. "It was overwhelming to feel so many people that proud," she says, "I remember sitting there watching her, and that was probably the first time I was like, 'OK, yeah, I like this. I can't wait to do this.'

Every family has that story you've heard a thousand times. It's swapped at family reunions, over holidays or at birthday parties. Sometimes the edges change, or details get added, but the shape of the story is always there — that one persistent detail that always gets the reaction.

Updated April 22, 2021 at 8:29 AM ET

Anya Steinberg remembers the exact moment she discovered a family secret. It was in an elementary school biology lesson about genetics. "My dad, who I thought was my biological dad at the time, was 50% Korean. But I'm 50% Korean," Steinberg says, "and I was like 50 doesn't make 50 because my mom's not Korean at all."

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Duke University in North Carolina has announced that it will require students to have a COVID-19 vaccine when they return this fall. And the list of campuses with such policies is growing.

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For the past year, college hasn't really looked like college. Some campuses are closed even when they're open. Lots of schools are doing classes largely or exclusively online. One thing that hasn't changed - the price.

There's a lot that is different this spring on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville. It's quieter, since coronavirus safety protocols restrict large gatherings, and the dorm common areas are often empty. But there's one thing that hasn't changed: On most weekdays, you can find Lavonda Little at Reid Hall, a four-story residential building, working as a custodian, a job she's held for the last 16 years.

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Hoarse voices reminiscing about last night's wild time; young people in oversized university t-shirts crowding the liquor store; a cabal of high heels waiting for ride shares, with nary a mask in sight.

Pandemic or not, it's spring break in Miami Beach, Fla.

Almost exactly one year ago, the pandemic caused a cascade of school and university closures, sending 9 out of 10 students home as the coronavirus raced through the United States and the rest of the world.

By Labor Day, 62% of U.S. students were still learning virtually, according to the organization Burbio. That number dropped significantly during the fall and rose in the winter as COVID-19 surged. And today, just under 1 in 4 public school students attends a district that still hasn't held a single day of in-person learning.

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